Walt Disney World Announces Phased Reopening

Walt Disney World has spent the day enduring Hurricane Ian’s impact and lingering remnants. Unfortunately, the worst isn’t technically over yet, either. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings has encouraged Orlando residents to continue sheltering until the storm officially passes after 1 a.m. on Friday.

The Walt Disney Company has carefully tracked the storm and decided how to approach its operations on Friday. As a result, Disney WILL reopen its parks on Friday via a phased approach. Here’s what’s happening.

Disney Plans Phased Reopening

Walt Disney World has posted this tweet:

The key takeaway here is that Disney officials “anticipate weather conditions to improve this evening.” For this reason, management believes that the theme parks and Disney Springs can reopen safely tomorrow.

The situation in and around the Disney campus remains fluid, though. Disney hasn’t confirmed operating hours for Friday yet because of the confusion. Presumably, that’s what “phased reopening” means. Part of the indecision here is beyond Disney’s control, as I’ll explain.

Orlando International Airport tweeted this earlier today:

The airport also intends to reopen tomorrow. Unfortunately, it’s hard to name the exact time for reopening when all major roads to the airport remain closed. Disney’s in the same situation.

You probably know that sections of Orlando have suffered much worse than Walt Disney World. Here’s a picture from a ride at Universal Orlando Resort (UOR):

Walt Disney World thankfully isn’t facing anything like this, which makes its reopening possible. SeaWorld Orlando wasn’t as fortunate.

So, we’re in wait-and-see mode to a certain extent with how Disney approaches its reopening. We know that Disney has canceled the early showing of Cirque du Soleil’s Drawn to Life on Friday. Instead, it’ll only host a presentation at 8 p.m. on September 30th.

Meanwhile, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue has canceled its Friday performance. Also, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser won’t reopen Friday. Its next cruise is likely Monday, but that isn’t confirmed yet. 

What Should You Expect during the Phased Disney Reopening?

Disney encourages guests to monitor the Weather Events page, which is where I’m getting some of my information. The expectation is that Disney parks will operate with limited hours, but that could change if the roads prove more manageable.

Park officials face an unusual concern here. EPCOT celebrates its 40th birthday on Saturday. Disneyland already had to close for its 65th anniversary during COVID. So, Disney has plenty of incentive to reopen. As things stand, EPCOT’s 40th anniversary will be a somber affair.

Disney also hasn’t restored Park Passes for Friday yet. This quirk had caused some to speculate that the parks wouldn’t reopen. Thankfully, that’s not the case, but you still cannot book Park Passes for Friday at the moment. 

That may change once Disney publishes its operating hours. The parks do show full Park Pass availability for Saturday, though. So, I think it’s safe to expect full operations on that day. 

Currently, park officials are roaming the grounds of the various themed lands to assess the damage and identify places in need of repair. Guests staying at Walt Disney World have shared images showing relatively minor issues like fallen trees and ceiling tiles. 

As long as the damage is that small, Disney should have no problem running its parks. However, you shouldn’t expect every ride to operate. Only people inside the parks know which attractions have sustained damage. 

Jurassic River Adventure at Universal’s Island of Adventure is currently missing part of a wall. See what was posted to twitter:

If Disney has any issues like that, nobody has said anything yet. However, we do know how multi-day theme park tickets will work. If Hurricane Ian has impacted your tickets, Disney will extend the deadline through at least September 30th. As usual, your best bet is to speak to Guest/Member Services for specifics. 

Hurricane Ian Targets Hilton Head 

Okay, those of us with family in South Carolina know that Hurricane Ian hasn’t finished yet. While the storm lost strength while crossing Florida, it’s currently out at sea. It’s picking up velocity at 70 miles per hour and could attain hurricane status again before reaching landfall.

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort resides squarely in the path of Hurricane Ian and they have made the decision to make resort amenities unavailable beginning Friday, September 30th. Similar to the resorts at Walt Disney World earlier this week, the resort will not accept any incoming arrivals on Saturday, October 1st. Here is the current message on their website

DVC members can call Member Services (1-800-9800) to reschedule or cancel without any fear of penalty. Please understand that the phone lines are incredibly busy right now. You may need to wait a substantial amount of time to modify your reservation.

Disney provides exceptional customer service, as a rule, with weather events. However, many guests prefer being at Disney during hurricane weather. Several of my friends who live in Orlando are holed up at Disney resorts as we speak for this very reason. So, if you’re already in the Hilton Head area, you may not want to cancel anyway. 

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